The last few years have been a dynamic, if not turbulent, time for Vassar’s Campus Patrol. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Campus Patrol, which had been independent for most of its 47 years, was incorporated into the Office of Residential Life. In addition to administrative oversight, Residential Life imposed significant changes to Campus Patrol, which was then under the supervision of former Assistant Director of Residential Life Anders van Minter.
In early Spring 2017, the Office of Residential Life announced the creation of a new position within house team: Community Fellows. Community Fellows would essentially adopt the role of Campus Patrol; they were to be present in Residential Houses and available to students in times of turmoil. However, it was clear that the transition from Campus Patrol to Community Fellows was more than just a name change. Not only was the Campus Patrol program being fully integrated into the House Team program, but the role of Patrollers on campus was to change significantly as well.
Campus Patrol Supervisor Tom Racek ’18 penned a Miscellany News Opinion piece in February regarding the transition, entitled “An Obituary to Campus Patrol 1969-2017.” In his article, Racek highlighted the importance of Campus Patrol, identifying it as a necessary force for on-campus safety at Vassar. He mourned what he saw as the administration’s decision to effectively end the program.
Subsequently, the Campus Patrollers’ radios were sold off, and their offices were evacuated. Indeed, it seemed like the end of Campus Patrol, and Patrol members were invited to attend Com- munity Fellow training.
However, when Patrollers returned in the fall, they found that the program was again under new administration. With van Minter and former Director of Residential Life Luis Inoa gone, Campus Patrol was now under the supervision of House Advisor and Assistant Director of Residential Life Christina Winnett.
Winnett got involved with Campus Patrol in Spring 2016. “Luis Inoa and Anders van Minter invited me to be part of the process of imagining how to integrate Patrol better within the department, houses and house teams,” Winnett explained. “I was and continue to be excited to explore the role of Patrol on campus and how to build up the program to be the best it can be for our communities.”
According to Winnett, Residential Life and the Patrol Supervisors collectively decided to forestall some of the changes, keeping the name “Campus Patrol” and the operations of the program primarily intact. Racek noted that the Patrol radios were returned and that Patrol Supervisors were given a greater voice regarding the future of the program.
Racek, who has been on Patrol since his first year at Vassar, is happy to see Patrol remain in operation on campus. Racek cares deeply about Campus Patrol and its role at Vassar. “We’re basically the middle-man between students and [the Office of Safety and] Security,” Racek said, explaining that Campus Patrol often intervenes in situations when other students are afraid to. “We’re not here to get you in trouble,” he added. In delineating the purpose of Campus Patrol, Racek quoted the group’s unofficial motto: “Protecting people like you from people like us.”
Winnett noted, however, that the structure of Campus Patrol offers significant administrative challenges. She explained that in the past, Patrol was often distanced from House Advisors and Security. “Up until the 2016-17 academic year, House Advisors had very little insight into what Patrollers were doing in their lobbies each weekend, and were not often made aware of any concerns that Patrol addressed during their shifts. This posed a problem for House Advisors, since we are responsible for the well-being of our communities and have a role in addressing both positive and negative behaviors that impact our house communities.”
Patrol is in the early stages of shifting into what Winnett calls a “decentralized model.” This decentralized model will assign supervisors to individual houses, and integrate House Advisors into the chain of communication, so that everyone is on the same page regarding potential disturbances. “We have not yet reached the goal of a [fully] decentralized model, but we’re getting there,” she explained. “This [model], in theory, would con- nect House Advisors more directly to the work patrollers are doing, and help us understand what is going on in our houses and what patrollers are encountering on nights and weekends.”
In addition to working more closely with House Advisors and House Teams, Campus Patrol is working with Campus Safety and Security to maximize their impact. Supervisors and Patrollers are receiving additional training from Security, as part of its Community Engagement Program. This collaborative program aims to forge strong connections between Campus Patrol, Safety and Security and the student body— ultimately ensuring that Patrollers and Security officers remain approachable for students in need of help.
Patrol Supervisor Yvonne Yu ’18 reflected on the changes, “I think this is a good opportunity for us to restructure our program to continue our strong relationship with Security, but also to be more transparent to ResLife and the student communities we are serving.”
Racek explained another aspect of Campus Patrol’s relationship with the community, saying, “We reach out to groups that are active at night and on the weekends, particularly people attending parties in the Terrace Apartments and Town Houses.” Campus Patrol actively works to build a rapport with these groups, so that they are more likely to reach out to Patrol and Security resources if needed.
Racek is confident that Campus Patrol is an invaluable aspect of the security infrastructure at Vassar. He, of course, isn’t opposed to all change. “We’ve been around since 1969,” he reflected, “and we’ve basically worked out any kinks in the system. We’re very comfortable where we are, and the system works, but we’re willing to change with the world. We’re constantly looking to expand our base of knowledge and our training.”